Coal Seam Gas – on the Nose

Sydney, March 25, 2015: On Sunday March 1, 250 volunteers from Our Land Our Water Our Future (OLOWOF), an umbrella group combining environmental groups and local communities concerned about the effect of mining on their land, conducted a survey in the beachside suburb of Manly, in the Premier, Mike Baird’s own electorate.

Volunteers doorknocked 8,000 houses, and collected 1,808 surveys, 96 percent of those surveyed were concerned about the impact of coal and gas expansion, they also felt that the NSW government should do more to protect farmlands, forests and waters. Ninety percent of respondents felt that coal and gas companies had too much influence on the government.

The survey was an attempt to show the NSW government that mining and its impacts on the environment are not just a country issue – the city and his electorate also has a view.

Grass roots movements all over NSW have been staging protests against CSG, Open Cut Mining, loss of prime agricultural land, threats to clean drinking water and environmental pollution from mining activities, OLOWOF has played a part in bringing these groups together.’

One such group, Knitting Nannas Against Gas was formed in 2012 in the northern rivers area of NSW to fight unconventional gas mining that would affect prime agricultural land in their area. They are a group of women who use knitting as a form of non-violent protest while they blockade sites or stage protests.

Liz Thompson a member of the Manly (a Sydney beachside suburb) loop of Knitting Nannas told Issues of Interest (IoI) at the Manly Stands Up! Forum on Wednesday March 18 that while the farmland may not be theirs, water is a great resource that needs to be fought for. She said: “We are supporting the fight against CSG”.

The Manly Knitting Nannas sit outside Mike Baird’s electorate office every Friday. There are ongoing protests outside gas company, AGL’s Sydney headquarters every week, IoI met people there who had travelled from Blacktown in Sydney’s outer west (CSG Free Western Sydney), Wollongong the port city to Sydney’s south (Stop CSG Illawara), Kyogle on the far north coast (Knitting Nannas), Gloucester in the NSW hinterland (Groundswell Gloucester) and even from the Tara region in Queensland. All these areas are affected by CSG mining, either through exploration, extraction or fracking.

Protest outside AGL HQ Sydney, Thursday 12 February 2015

Protest outside AGL Headquarters, Sydney.

Thursday February 12, 2015.

Kylie Haeusler had travelled to Sydney from Texas, Queensland (Q’ld)where she now lives in a caravan on her father’s property after losing her own 220 acre property in Kenya, 34 km from Chinchilla (a small town, population 5,487 about 300km west northwest of Brisbane) in the heart of the gas fields. Ninety-two percent of CSG reserves are located in Q’ld.  She had just begun to undertake agroponics to grow lettuce and tomatoes on her land.

She had brought her son down to Sydney to start his tertiary education and she stopped by to speak to the protestors outside AGL’s offices on Thursday, February 12. She told them that she had been made homeless by Queensland Gas and she wanted to make people aware of the misconceptions surrounding gas mining.

She said that initially her local community welcomed the idea of gas wells because they were told that it was natural and it would be good for them. But she says that in hindsight it actually broke apart the existing community. Kylie herself lost the ability to control who came onto her land, the influx of workers into the local community created a law and order problem with more incidences of drink-driving, and break and enter and the opening of a brothel in Chinchilla.

She said the existing infrastructure could not cope with the increase in population and local businesses which had thought that they would benefit from the population growth found that items were no longer sourced locally but from the larger towns of Toowoomba and Brisbane.

The issue of industrialisation of areas that were quiet farming communities was something that a number of people talked about. The constant noise from mining activities, not just gas wells; the pollution and the health effects that large scale mining can have on local communities and especially children is also an issue. As Cris Matthews a Knitting Nanna from Kyogle said: “Knitting Nannas want a better world for our children and grandchildren”.

© Suganthi Singarayar

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